We don’t know about y’all, but growing up there was always one cure-all for everything: tea. Sick? Drink some tea. Heart broken? Drink some tea. Bust your skull open? Drink some tea. While some of our parents never really explained all of the healing properties of tea, one female entrepreneur is bringing us culture in a hot-steaming, adult cup of tea.
PHOTO: Ivy’s Tea Co
Shanae Jones, founder of Ivy’s Tea Co., wants to bring “flava” and the guesswork out of drinking tea and ultimately the holistic community. Jones introduced her company to the world two years ago, and since then she has been making her mark as a Black woman herbalist looking to lead a healthy, conscious lifestyle while educating others.
21Ninety caught up with Jones to talk more about Ivy’s Tea Co.’s purpose, benefits and ask her advice on how to navigate the holistic world:
21NINETY: Adulting is rough, this we can agree upon. And when we were younger, our parents made it seem like tea was the cure for EVERYTHING, but you share it is. Talk to us more about how beneficial tea can be to our everyday lives.
SHANAE JONES: Tea really is the cure all. It sounds ridiculous and cheap (lol), but it's true. There's just something about a warm cup of tea that is calming. But once we get into herbal teas, like the ones I offer, you find that you can really use teas to (and other herbal medicine) for specific effects on the body. We know about things like chamomile for insomnia, but you can also find stronger herbal sedatives like Valerian Root. The good thing about herbalism is that you are challenged to connect with herbs on a personal level, finding what works specifically for you and learning what doesn't and why.
PHOTO: Ivy’s Tea Co
21N: You take a very holistic approach to your business and in your life. What attracted you to this lifestyle?
SJ: It was somewhat of a last resort – literally everything I had tried wasn't working, I was struggling with my career, confused about what I wanted for myself for the future, I wouldn't say I had low self-esteem but I had very little confidence in myself…I was kinda lost. And a holistic lifestyle was a challenge to connect with myself and I realized I needed to do that, I didn't know who I was. I guess you could say I saw freedom in the lifestyle and that was engaging, exciting and attractive to me.
21N: What changes are you looking to bring to the holistic health industry through Ivy’s Tea Co.?
SJ: In the 90s they'd call it "flava" – I really want to bring that to the holistic health industry. Right now it's so pale and boring to me. There's nothing exciting about it. It's the same old people doing the same old things and they don't have their finger on pop culture, they don't know what's dope, what gets the people going so to speak. When people see Ivy's Tea Co., I want people to relate to holistic health and feel like there are products for them in the industry. I want them to see themselves in my advertisements, on the website, and in me, even. There are very few Black people working in the field of holistic health, even fewer are herbalists, and even fewer who are actually making products like the ones you can find from Ivy's Tea Co. and of those, none are using Hip-Hop and pop culture as a teachable avenue. I'm just really trying to break stereotypes.
21N: And just in general, why do you want to introduce more African holistic health remedies to the health industry?
SJ: Because there's very little on the market. Most of the herbal remedies you find are Western in tradition (ie European, white American), Chinese, or Indian – some are Native American, though they've managed to do a good job of holding onto their traditions because you know…this is a profitable industry, some people bring capitalism to this industry and the people and cultures suffer every time. But it's almost as if no one knows about the healing remedies of the people of the African Diaspora and I feel it's just another erasure of Black people.
PHOTO: Ivy’s Tea Co
21N: When sharing your teas and outlook with others, do you ever get pushback and if you do, how do you handle it?
SJ: Sometimes I get pushback but more often than not people are very intrigued by my work as an herbalist and they want to know more about natural remedies. Everything starts with diet, I am a firm believer that your diet can change your DNA so to speak. And Black people, in this country most certainly, must be more knowledgeable about what we eat, where we're sourcing our food, and its effect on our bodies. A lot of people who support Ivy's Tea Co. are woke, care about their health, and are aware of the problems many people face when seeking treatment from doctors, so I find that my work is much easier than I had expected.
21N: For someone who may be on the fence, what are 5 significant changes you have seen in your body since making that switch?
SJ: It's hard to answer the question with a list. I can say that before I started practicing a holistic lifestyle and connecting with the earth for healing (sounds fancy, right?), I was like a lot of young Black women – feeling a lot of pressure to be the best, get a lot of degrees and make a lot of money. I also had anger and abandonment issues stemming from a bad relationship with my absentee father. At one point I had very little confidence in myself and little hope for the future, I had been running on autopilot and when I completed all of the work I set out to do, I was still unfulfilled. And that was very discouraging. Herbalism and the transition to a holistic lifestyle called me to really figure out what I want out of life, what success means to me, and what a holistic life means to me (there's no one way, right way or wrong way to live holistically, either). I had to get therapy and talk through my anger, I had to confront traumas that weren't mine but were generational. And as a result, I'm more level headed, I'm optimistic, I have a clear plan for my life and I'm disciplined about seeing it unfold, I travel more, I talk to strangers (I never used to do that), when I'm angry I let myself be angry without being hurt for other reasons. I can go on and on about the benefits of reconnecting with the land in our day-to-day lives, I just want people to know that it's a viable option for improved mental, physical and emotional health.
21N: What are 3 major benefits of Ivy’s Tea you really sell to your customers?
SJ: The benefits of Ivy's Tea Co. that I sell my customers are: empowerment, convenience, and relationship. While those might not sound like herbal components of a tea company, they are essential to the brand because I want customers to understand the power of herbal tea and see how easy they are to incorporate into their diets, while I build a relationship with them and customers build a relationship with the herbs.
21N: Aside from the names of your teas (which we are obsessed with by the way), how do you choose what combinations you will marry together for the flavors?
SJ: I start out with a purpose for the tea. So I have a bunch of herbs (more than any normal person should have to be honest but I digress) and I decide what I want the tea to do. So, let's say I'm making a tea for insomniacs. I choose all the herbs I have that are nervine relaxants, sedatives, etc. and I start there. Then I start getting creative with flavors, which is my strength. This is part creativity, choosing which herbs will go together, but then there's another part that is a "hard" science, I know which herbs counteract others, which ones have contraindications, which ones might not be safe, etc. Then I begin formulating the process. Talking about it, it all sounds so scientific and complex, but it's a lot easier for me that it might sound.
21N: You also sell an array of honey. When did the selling of honey come into play for the company?
SJ: A few months after selling teas, I thought I could add something new to the product line that was not a tea and that even a coffee drinker might enjoy. I thought about all the trash honey available in most grocery stores and just knew I could offer something better. Herb infused honey was a no brainer – they're simple, don't require much to sell them, and they go with tea easily. Later when I started experimenting with new flavors I showed people how you can use honey to make marinades, BBQ sauces, and salad dressings or just as a sweetener to sweet potatoes or directly on top of fried chicken (completely not healthy but delicious). The goal is to get people to begin using raw and organic honey, over refined and white sugar. Raw organic honey is so healthy because it's antiviral. In addition to being delicious in tea, it can be used to make all natural cough syrup. You can't do nothin with white sugar lol.
21N: Now that we are in fall, and winter is creeping up, how do you suggest we protect ourselves against cold/flu season?
SJ: Oh this is easy – stay hydrated (drink plenty of water), eat garlic (it's antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal), take ginger shots, and drink Ivy's Tea Co. YPE tea, it's a blend of yarrow, peppermint, and elderflower that supports the immune system.
21N: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us and our readers?
SJ: I just want to tell the world to stop drinking bagged tea with crushed up leaves peppered with pesticides. It's time to graduate. Let's drink loose leaf organic herbal tea, hand blended by a Black herbalist. Drink tea like an adult.
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